The Man with Downcast Eyes

He was a sweet boy, Harry Osgrave. His smile was like a warm, sunlit morning at the break of winter.

And yet somehow he ran with the bad men, as the under-runner of the Eastern ruffians.

He’d never gotten drunk but once, and then he was so thoroughly overwhelmed by the experience that he swore off drinking altogether. He was no good at cards either; his honest face always betrayed him.


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Despite these disqualifications, Harry owned his role with the ruffians. He cooked for them, ran their little errands, and covered for their games. That was what he called it anyways, when they would go out and raid a farm or kidnap a horse.

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The War Garden

Ella and her brother Richard sat alone on the balcony overlooking the courtyard. The crescent moon smiled above them. On nights when it was full, they could see the gleam of moonlight on the lone guard’s chain mail and the shadows of the battlements stretch far across the wall. But tonight, barely anything was visible beyond the castle. Only by the light of the torches could one see the walls of the stable and the tiny roof of the castle well.

Photo by Buzac Marius via Unsplash

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Ella and Richard were quiet, content to enjoy each other’s company, both with minds too full to speak. Richard was to leave the next morning.

It was certainly not his preference. Their father insisted, however, that Richard needed leadership experience outside the well-ordered walls of the keep and had promised he would be sent out at the next opportunity. When reports of ruffians came from the border, Ella knew Richard would embark.

“I’ll take care of the garden,” Ella said.

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The Broken Castle

“War is coming.”

These words did not disturb many shepherd boys. Truly, the old words of the prophecy did not disturb many at all – but Albrecht was not like many other shepherd boys.

Flowered Rocks by Matthew Smith via Unsplash

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Yes, he wore the tattered, smelly rags of one born into the peasantry, and, yes, he wandered with the sheep in the wind and rain, faithful dog ahead on the roam. But when winter’s eve shut all the living up in whatever shelter they could find, Albrecht would sit and listen to the words of his Gramma.

Gramma Vorse had been blind ever since Albrecht could remember. Much like the other elder women, she spent her days knitting the wool yarn the sheep gave and caring for the family. Unlike the other women, however, Gramma Vorse had spent her maiden years as a scullery maid in the kitchen of the chief scribe at the Grand Library.

During those years, young Miss Vorse listened the scribe read many a tale from books few had even heard of. True tales that most passed off as fable and myth: of Sagia & her brothers and the songs that took them far across the seven worlds, of the wisdom written by kings and sages, and, of course, the tale of the lost princess.

These stories were retold to Albrecht over the last embers of winter’s dying fire.

As the wind stirred the cold about the stone cottages, Gramma Vorse’s retelling stoked the gentle kindling within Albrecht’s mind.

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The Richest Man in the World

Jared Kilpatrick was an ornery son, even at his best.

When he wasn’t pontificating opinions in his father’s blacksmith shop, he would sit in the market square with the old men and philosophize.

Few things pleased him more than winning someone over with his mental sparring. As his mother, I learned early on not to engage in his debates; drawing out his true convictions with a well-phrased question was much more rewarding.

Rooster of Star Gazing Farms by Mark Peters Photography - LARGE

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While I had to argue with him every once in awhile, usually his father stepped in and bore the brunt of the verbal head butting.

As his confidant – not his combatant – I kept my place as a consistent ear throughout the years, even up to this present day.

This is the story of how he became the richest man in the world.

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Once Human

“She led me out.”

The old man stooped in his chair and offered his hand to the owl at the window. My friend and I shuffled our feet waiting for his story.

“That’s how I found Dusk. He had a broken wing; we healed together.”

Owl Friend by Cliff Johnson via Unsplash

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Afternoon sun glazed the panes of the barren cabin. Wood slats held in a musty smell of hay and old soup. There was little more in the one room than a table, chair, and a cot on the floor.

“I don’t know why you want to hear my story,” he continued. “Nothing good has come of it.” The owl walked slowly and perched itself on the outstretched hand.

“I made it out alive,” he said, stroking the feathers of his friend. “That is all.”

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The Thistle Dancer

Raindrops pattered upon the stone window sill. Droplets glazed the panes of the library as my nine year old eyes peered out towards the moorlands.

My breath fogged the glass so I wiped it with my ash grey sleeve and stared out again at the rolling grass pelted with rain.

Queen Anne by Elsa Koppel

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White sheep harried themselves towards shelter as the dog encouraged them on, shepherd boy in tow.

How I envied them with their freedom to roam and view the open countryside! Little did I know how the thorns matted their wool nor how the stench of the animals nestled within the shepherd boy’s clothes. I took for granted the drafty shelter of the library and the comfort of tucking myself inside my flannel dress.

Despite my envy, I was the one privileged with better views. On good days I could make out the edge of the castle ruins and even the rocky crags against the ocean.

And if I perched myself in the corner, at the very edge of the window seat, I could see the thistle field.

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The Pursuit

Dear Burk,

We’ve settled down in Greensboro. Pa is having a lot of trouble setting up shop. I got an apprenticeship with the local blacksmith. Pa said if I can’t help him out I may as well stay busy.

Mr. Poirier is kind. Didn’t yell when I spilled the ashes. Handed me the broom and said to keep learning. His boys are good too. Jake helped me forge my own anvil.

Tell Bessie I say hey.

– David

Forge Fire Heating Sawzall Balde by Stone Soup Institute

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Dear David,

Good to know you’ve joined a shop.

All is well here. Bessie says hey and thinks of you everytime she makes her raisin cookies. That woman is a gift. We have a little one on the way now.

All the best,

– Burk

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The Secret Keeper

Mysie was a beautiful child.

Born to the king’s first cook, she grew up as close to the kitchen as she possibly could. The smells and sounds fascinated her. Standing in the doorway, blonde curls softly framed wide eyes that took in all the action of the royal kitchen. She stood in that doorway as often as she could.

"LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve Barn" by Dane Vandeputte

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One day when Mysie was five, the baker nearly forgot the bread. Little Mysie took her fists and beat against the wall until her mother heard her above the noise of the kitchen and asked what in the heavens was the matter. She pointed towards the oven and the bread was saved.

Little Mysie was mute.

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